At first, I didn't.
In fact, I hadn't even used the phrase helicopter parent until a few recent experiences defined these parents so precisely, no other phrase could hold a candle to the term.
The class started like many other dance classes I've experienced over the last few years. The little ones ventured into the classroom while the moms/dads surrounded the viewing windows. I was used to the routine. The parents spend the hour socializing, occasionally looking up to see their child do something cute... or, if you're like me, the anti-helicopter -- spend the hour catching up on phone calls, email, playing Angry Birds or running to the grocery store like a maniac for a few loose ends without my usual 2 attachments.
Sorry, but if I have an hour to myself -- I've got shit to do.
But this hour was different. I hadn't attended a morning class at this dance studio. I guess I took for granted that the 6p classes were full of kids of work-outside-of-the-home-moms who, yes, enjoyed seeing their children dance, but understood how important the separation was. We would complain about how we wished the viewing windows were only one-way glass, so the kids couldn't see if their parents were actually watching them or not, and, ya know, focus on dancing.
I casually mentioned the dream of the one-way glass to break the ice and start a conversation with some of these helicopter moms... and I got the look of death from the moms who were actually paying attention to what I was saying. Like... how could I even THINK such a thing?!
But that was only the beginning. 10 minutes into the class, one 3yo supposedly had to go to the bathroom. She barely looked at her mother, and her mom opened the door to the classroom, asked her if she had to go potty, the kid shrugged and helicopter-mom A disappeared with her daughter for 10 min. The dance director appropriately scolded heli-mom A for interrupting class without knocking -- both when she went in and when she brought her daughter back into class! Does etiquette not mean anything to anyone these days?
That was nothing compared to helicopter mom #2.
This heli-mom never sat... she stood by the glass door, I swear, nose pressed against the glass, constantly looking at her watch, but only out of the corner of her eye -- God forbid she loses lazer-level eye contact with her daughter. Her anxiety made me want to run to the bar around the corner for a beer AND a shot of tequila.
About 20 minutes into the 60 minute class, her daughter turned ever so slightly toward her mom and helicopter mom #2 jumped at the chance to open the door to make sure she was ok. Wait, there's more. The heli-mother then grabs her daughter from the classroom, takes her into the lobby telling all of us "Oh, well, she only has a 20 minute attention span. I already talked to the teacher about this. I know this is ok." The director of the studio was sitting right there, a little confused, and instead of talking to the helicopter mom, the director talked to her daughter. "Chelsea, do you want to go back in to dance with your friends?" The heli-mom answers of course "No, she's done. She only has an attention span of 20 minutes" Seriously, Chelsea looked FINE. Heli-mom was holding her like a baby and Chelsea was easily 4 or 5 years old. She was doing great in class too. Personally speaking, my 3yo's attention span sucked way worse than Chelsea's, but there was no way I was ripping her out of the classroom!
The sad thing is, these were only 2 examples of what I witnessed... there are more. My last example? Helicopter mom C yelling at her child in true Momma-Rose fashion -- because she wasn't doing the dance steps right. She stood at the door in tap class screaming "Ashley!! Pay attention! Shuffle STEP! SHUFFLE STEP!" I somehow resisted the urge to smack that one. I wished I had my flask so I could pass it around... these heli-moms were in desperate need of some form of an anxiety reducer.
I just didn't get it, I mean... they are in DANCE class... you are paying someone to teach your child to be social, active & creative with their peers.
At one point, I thought the heli-moms might blow a gasket when I walked away from the viewing area to pee. Seriously people, your kids are in dance class... they'll be ok without you for an hour. They are with you all effing day... don't you deserve a break from them too? Let go. Because it's only an hour now, then it'll be a little longer for preschool... then a full day of school... do you really need me to go on?
This is the process. They are temporary residents in our home. We need to teach them that they can, and will be ok without us holding their hands through every big & little thing they do. Sure we can support them through it all... but at some point, they will need to figure out how to deal with things in a healthy way. On their own. We need to give them wings to fly... freely & confidently.
I'm not claiming to be perfect here, because I'm sure I've had a few helicopter moments early on in motherhood. It's not easy to raise a child, especially when you feel so overwhelmingly protective of them. But at some point, I learned... and I hope these helicopter parents will too, because if they don't, I fear what the future will hold for these children... as well as the future of their heli-parents.
Go have a drink, helicopter-mommas. Put a little alcohol on your anxiety and give yourself a BREAK!